Exceptionally Unharmful

This is a video clip worth watching.

Sadly, he didn’t take the opportunity to visit Guarapari but the point about smoking, which is still quite popular was very well made.

Would I feel uneasy in an abandoned Fukushima prefecture village? I expect so – the place has been left to the elements for three and a half years, and there are boars everywhere. In contrast to the radiation release from 2011, the death toll due to pigs is non-zero. I’m not going to get worried about the elevated background dose rate though: it is well below the medically-informed AHARS suggested limit of 100 milliSieverts per month, which works out to 137 microSieverts per hour.

I majored in cellular biochemistry, and as I learn more about health physics I may adjust my opinion, but to be conservative I peg 70 μSv/hr as my cutoff – don’t expect me to freakout anywhere below that, ok?

I want to especially recommend a reference I have recently come back to, written by the late Professor David Wigg, who headed clinical radiobiology for decades at the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

There is now a large body of human data showing the existence
of low dose thresholds of approximately 0.2 Sv or less
below which there is little or no effect.

…The most rigorous epidemiological study of the effects of
low exposure to radiation workers was the Nuclear Shipyards
Workers Study initiated by the USA Department of Energy in
which 71 000 workers were examined. There were two exposed
groups with doses less than or greater than the equivalent
of 5 years’ background radiation. These were compared
with similar workers with no exposure. The higher dose group
had lower cancer death rates and lower death rates from all

I must second the recommendation of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids. The great thing is it preceded the full-bore advent of both nuclear power and weapon proliferation, and instead imagines both a far more creative, immediate threat – the triffids themselves – and the existential threat of the cold war satellites, realised in abrupt global blindness. The main characters are flawed but compassionate and resourceful, struggling with the pressure of relinquishing just enough of their civilised morality to aid in building more than just bare survival. To quote, though not to necessarily endorse:

“Do you mean to say we could have had lights all the time we’ve been here?” asked the girl.
“If you had just taken the trouble to start the engine,” Coker said, looking at her. “If you wanted light, why didn’t you try to start it?”
“I didn’t know it was there; besides, I don’t know anything about engines or electricity.”
Coker continued to look at her, thoughtfully. “So you just went on sitting in the dark,” he remarked. “And how long do you think you are likely to survive if you just go on sitting in the dark when things need doing?”
She was stung by his tone.
“It’s not my fault if I’m not any good at things like that.”
“I’ll differ there,” Coker told her. “It’s not only your fault- it’s a self-created fault. Moreover, it’s an affectation to consider yourself too spiritual to understand anything mechanical. It is a petty and a very silly form of vanity. Everyone starts by knowing nothing about anything, but God gives him – and even her – brains to find out with. Failure to use them is not a virtue to be praised; even in women it is a gap to be deplored.”
She looked understandably annoyed. Coker himself had been annoyed from the time he came in. She said: “I don’t see why you need to pour all your contempt for women onto me – just because of one dirty old engine.”
Coker raised his eyes.
“Great God! And here have I been explaining that women have as many brains as anyone else, if they’d only take the trouble to use them.”
“You said we were all petty and vain. That wasn’t at all a nice thing to say.”
“I’m not trying to say nice things. And what I meant was that in the world that has vanished women had a vested interest in acting the part of parasites.”
“And all that just because I don’t happen to know anything about a smelly, noisy engine.”
“Hell!” said Coker. “Just drop that engine a minute, will you.”
“Then why-”
“Listen,” said Coker patiently. “If you have a baby, do you want him to grow up to be a savage or a civilized man?”
“A civilized man, of course.”
“Well, then, you have to see to it that he has civilized surroundings to do it in. The standards he’ll learn, he’ll learn from us. We’ve all got to understand as much as we can, and live as intelligently as we can, in order to give him the most we can. It’s going to mean hard work and more thinking for all of us. Changed conditions must mean changed outlooks.”
The girl gathered up her mending. She regarded Cokes critically for a few moments. “With views like yours I should think you’d find Mr. Beadley’s party more congenial,” she said. “Here we have no intention of changing our outlook – or of giving up our principles. That’s why we separated from the other party. So if the ways of decent, respectable people are not good enough for you, I should think you’d better go somewhere else.” And with a sound very like a sniff, she walked away.
Coker watched her leave. When the door closed he expressed his feelings with a fish porter’s fluency. I laughed. “What did you expect?” I said. “You prance in and address the girl as if she were a reactionary debating society – and responsible for the whole western social system as well. And then you’re surprised when she’s huffed.”
“You’d think she’d be reasonable,” he muttered.
“Most people aren’t, even though they’d protest that they are. They prefer to be coaxed or wheedled, or even driven. That way they never make a mistake: if there is one, it’s at’ ways due to something or somebody else. This going headlong for things is a mechanistic view, and people in general aren’t machines. They have minds of their own – mostly peasant minds, at their easiest when they are in the familiar furrow.”
“That doesn’t sound as if you’d give Beadley much chance of making a go of it. He’s all plan.”
“He’ll have his troubles. But his party did choose. This lot is negative,” I pointed out. “It is simply here on account of its resistance to any kind of plan.” I paused. Then I added: “That girl was right about one thing, you know. You would be better off with his lot. Her reaction is asample of what you’d get all round if you were to try to handle this lot your way. You can’t drive a flock of sheep to market in a dead straight line, but there are ways of getting ’em there.”
“You’re being unusually cynical, as well as very metaphorical, this evening,” Coker observed.
I objected to that. “It isn’t cynical to have noticed how a shepherd handles his sheep.”
“To regard human beings as sheep might be thought so by some.”
“But less cynical and much more rewarding than regarding them as a lot of chassis fitted for remote-thought control.”
“H’m,” said Coker, “I’ll have to consider the implications of that.”



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